Friday, February 29, 2008


I’ve been watching so much American Idol lately that I can’t help but hear Simon and the other judges in my head as I listen to 19, the debut record of British breakthrough artist and Amy Winehouse-sound-alike Adele. “Too old fashioned.” “Trouble with song choice.” “Pitchy in spots.”
     Okay, that last one isn’t true in the least; Adele’s voice — part folk, part jazz and all soul — is one of the strongest and most evocative that I’ve heard in a long time. In fact, she’d easily win Idol — it’s a “singing competition,” as the judges often note, and hers has star stamped all over it.
     As a songwriter, however, Adele isn’t quite as successful. Of the 12 songs on 19, all, except for London tribute song “Hometown Glory,” are love songs (or heartbreak songs — the other side of that coin), with several veering from neo-soul towards easy listening.
     But this is somewhat excusable; she is a teenager, after all (the 19 in the record’s title refers to Adele’s age), and the album’s high moments show she’s an artist with great potential. “Chasing Pavements” and “Cold Shoulder” achieve a timeless soul quality that has thus far eluded Winehouse. And “Melt My Heart to Stone” attempts to do just that, with a stunning, brassy vocal performance. A winner, indeed. B+
Adele: Cold Shoulder (mp3)
Adele: Melt My Heart to Stone (mp3)

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